Sierra Leone became the first country in the world to use blockchain technology to verify votes in an election last week.
Swiss blockchain company Agora provided the service to 280 polling locations in Sierra Leone’s Western District, which houses the nation’s capital of Freetown and is the country’s most populous area.
Agora was accredited as an international observer by Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), which provides the official election count. Alongside this process, Agora used blockchain to trial tallying votes as an independent operator.
After voting, each paper ballot was announced out loud by NEC officials and manually logged by Agora employees using specialized blockchain technology.
Similar to how blockchain provides transparency in cryptocurrency transactions by storing data in a public record, Agora hopes to provide transparency in elections.
In Sierra Leone, this was accomplished by each vote being stored on a joint, private blockchain network accessible only by Agora staff, who then posted the tally on their election results site. This reduces the chances of any vote, which were validated on the blockchain network in real time, from being tampered with.
“I strongly believe that this election is the beginning of a much larger blockchain voting movement,” Agora CEO Leonardo Gammar told CoinDesk last Thursday following the elections.
Sierra Leone’s elections is yet another example of blockchain technology expanding outside of cryptocurrency technology with the potential to shape elections around the world. Agora says it’s already in talks with other countries to use its voting technology, CoinDesk said.
“You’re looking at a country that you probably wouldn’t normally expect to be the first to use transparent voting tech,” Agora’s COO Jaron Lukasiewicz said, according to Coindesk. “A country like Sierra Leone can ultimately minimize a lot of the fall-out of a highly contentious election by using software like this.”
Last week’s elections set to replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress party, who had served his maximum two-term limit in office.
Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party led with 43.3 percent of the vote in the first round of elections but failed to secure a majority vote needed to win, according to the electoral commission.
The NEC released official election results, which were separate to the count provided by Agora, several days after the election.
A runoff election will take place on March 27, the commission said.